Gareth Bale froze, and slides further from a Real Madrid stay
At home to the league's bottom side Huesca, the Welshman had a perfect chance to impress, potentially revitalising his role in the team. He didn't take it.
It was the ideal match for him. The broad and lengthy Bernabéu pitch, and LaLiga's lowliest team against him. Everything pointed in his favour, giving Gareth Bale the chance to make an impact. But he didn't take it.
Bale fails to take, yet another, chance
On the contrary, it was as if he was transparent, making his appearance known on one particular occasion, where he played the pass with the outside of his boot that fed Benzema to assist Ceballos for Madrid's second goal. For the rest of the match, the watching crowd were left desperate, first whistling him when he skied a free kick; again when he missed an open goal with the ball virtually on the goal line; and then finally, when he carelessly lost possession in the final stages of the match.
When Zidane arrived for his second stint at Madrid, Bale knew that his days were numbered at the club. He no longer has such firm backing from those in the upper echelons. He arrived in 2013 and this season was meant to be the final confirmation of his place in the side following the sale of Cristiano. But, far from fulfilling that objective, it seems increasingly likely that the future for Bale is away from the Bernabéu. "Bale will be in Madrid as long as Madrid want him," his agent Jonathan Barnett told AS in recent weeks.
And he hit the nail on the head. Now, even the Welshman's representative is lacking any trust in what the club's intentions for his player are. On previous occasions he has been more adamant, with lines like, "Bale will stay, for sure."
Bale must give more to Madrid
To revive his personal stock, Bale had to knock down the door against Huesca, just as he needed to do in the nine league games remaining. But against the bottom side, only eight times did he advance with the ball into the final area of the opposition (Odrizola, the full-back, did it just one fewer). The Welshman's link-up play with his teammates didn't impress either. A measly 31 passes in the game was the least from any of those in the starting XI, with only the three substitutes offering fewer. Even young goalkeeper Luca Zidane combined with his white-shirted colleagues on 38 occasions.
Gareth Bale has to give significantly more than this if he wants to silence the voices that say he must be sold in the summer.